The Winter Guest by Pam Jenoff

As you can imagine, I have a LOT of books on my kindle. I actually burnt out my first Kindle by reading more than 400 pages a day (Amazon gave me a discount to replace it).

Right now I have over 125 pages of books in my “library”. With 6 on each page, that’s about 750+ books. Needless to say, I often have to go through them and see what I’ve missed in my TBR pile!

I was searching one day and came across this novel. I really enjoy Pam Jenoff’s historical fiction, and I had actually purchased this book for myself in 2019 as a birthday present. I guess I then forgot about it!

This is a touching and heartfelt story of WWII (you know I’m a big fan!), centering on a family of children that have been torn apart by the war. The two eldest sisters (twins) are trying to keep them all together. One of them, Helena, finds an injured pilot hiding nearby and takes care of him, and (of course) they fall in love.

Here’s the overview from Amazon:

Life is a constant struggle for the eighteen-year-old Nowak twins as they raise their three younger siblings in rural Poland under the shadow of the Nazi occupation. The constant threat of arrest has made everyone in their village a spy, and turned neighbor against neighbor. Though rugged, independent Helena and pretty, gentle Ruth couldn’t be more different, they are staunch allies in protecting their family from the threats the war brings closer to their doorstep with each passing day. 

Then Helena discovers an American paratrooper stranded outside their small mountain village, wounded, but alive. Risking the safety of herself and her family, she hides Sam—a Jew—but Helena’s concern for the American grows into something much deeper. Defying the perils that render a future together all but impossible, Sam and Helena make plans for the family to flee. But Helena is forced to contend with the jealousy her choices have sparked in Ruth, culminating in a singular act of betrayal that endangers them all—and setting in motion a chain of events that will reverberate across continents and decades. 

This was a very memorable story, and I see that it is the first in a series. If I had one honest complaint, it was that I felt the pacing was rather slow for the first 85% of the book – and that was the perfect fit for the dull winter season that the children were trying to get through. Then suddenly things sped up and happened and the rest of the story was told in a flashback. I guess the novel could have been 600 pages if it was all written out, but I would have loved to read through the happenings.

Maybe that’s in the series? I really don’t know. But I do know that if you like WWII genre and stories of resiliency, this is a good one!

The Heirloom Garden by Viola Shipman

I just loved this touching story from Harlequin that was partly historical fiction and partly “women’s fiction”. It was a sweet story with a happy ending and was a nice read during our COVID confinement. Gardens symbolize the eternalness of the seasons and the passing of life and the garden in this story stood for a life well-lived that had been dormant a little too long.

Description

In her inimitable style, Viola Shipman explores the unlikely relationship between two very different women brought together by the pain of war, but bonded by hope, purpose…and flowers.

Iris Maynard lost her husband in World War II, her daughter to illness and, finally, her reason to live. Walled off from the world for decades behind the towering fence surrounding her home, Iris has built a new family…of flowers. Iris propagates her own daylilies and roses while tending to a garden filled with the heirloom starts that keep the memories of her loved ones alive.

When Abby Peterson moves next door with her family—a husband traumatized by his service in the Iraq War and a young daughter searching for stability—Iris is reluctantly yet inevitably drawn into her boisterous neighbor’s life, where, united by loss and a love of flowers, she and Abby tentatively unearth their secrets, and help each other discover how much life they have yet to live.

With delightful illustrations and fascinating detail, Viola Shipman’s heartwarming story will charm readers while resonating with issues that are so relevant today.

This is one my mother would have called “a nice story”. It made me cry.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to read and share about it!

(Net Galley ARC received for free)

Harlequin Blog Tour for The Black Swan of Paris by Karen Robards

I’m thrilled to be part of the Harlequin Summer Reads blog tour for The Black Swan of Paris by Karen Robards. This was a riveting read of WWII Resistance, centering on two main characters, mother and daughter Lillian and Genevieve. Living in France, both of them were pulled into anti-Nazi activities, risking and often losing much of what they held dear. I couldn’t put it down! Ms. Robards is a new author to me, but I loved her writing and will look for her other novels.

Here’s the overview:

For fans of The Alice Network and The Lost Girls of Paris comes a thrilling standalone by New York Times bestselling author Karen Robards about a celebrated singer in WWII occupied France who joins the Resistance to save her estranged family from being killed in a German prison.

In Occupied France, the Resistance trembles on the brink of destruction. Its operatives, its secrets, its plans, all will be revealed. One of its leaders, wealthy aristocrat Baron Paul de Rocheford, has been killed in a raid and the surviving members of his cell, including his wife the elegant Baronness Lillian de Rocheford, have been arrested and transported to Germany for interrogation and, inevitably, execution.

Captain Max Ryan, British SOE, is given the job of penetrating the impregnable German prison where the Baroness and the remnants of the cell are being held and tortured. If they can’t be rescued he must kill them before they can give up their secrets.

Max is in Paris, currently living under a cover identity as a show business impresario whose star attraction is Genevieve Dumont. Young, beautiful Genevieve is the toast of Europe, an icon of the glittering entertainment world that the Nazis celebrate so that the arts can be seen to be thriving in the occupied territories under their rule.

What no one knows about Genevieve is that she is Lillian and Paul de Rocheford’s younger daughter. Her feelings toward her family are bitter since they were estranged twelve years ago. But when she finds out from Max just what his new assignment entails, old, long-buried feelings are rekindled and she knows that no matter what she can’t allow her mother to be killed, not by the Nazis and not by Max. She secretly establishes contact with those in the Resistance who can help her. Through them she is able to contact her sister Emmy, and the sisters put aside their estrangement to work together to rescue their mother.

It all hinges on a command performance that Genevieve is to give for a Gestapo General in the Bavarian town where her mother and the others are imprisoned. While Genevieve sings and the show goes on, a daring rescue is underway that involves terrible danger, heartbreaking choices, and the realization that some ties, like the love between a mother and her daughters and between sisters, are forever.

BIO: 

Karen Robards is the New York Times, USA TODAY and Publishers Weekly bestselling author of more than fifty novels and one novella. She is the winner of six Silver Pen awards and numerous other awards.

SOCIAL:

Author Website: http://karenrobards.com/

TWITTER: @TheKarenRobards

FB: @AuthorKarenRobards

Thank you for my ARC and for making me part of the tour!

Buy links provided by Harlequin and not affiliated with BBNB:

BUY LINKS:

Harlequin 

Indiebound

Amazon

Barnes & Noble 

Books-A-Million

Target

Walmart

Google

iBooks

Kobo

Harlequin Summer Reads Blog Tour for Red Sky over Hawaii by Sarah Ackerman

I’m thrilled to take part in Harlequin’s Summer Reads Blog Tour today, dishing about Red Sky over Hawaii by Sarah Ackerman! This was a compelling story – WWII historical fiction/romance – that takes place in Hawai’i. If you know me, you know I love the Hawai’ian Islands and there were so many places that featured in the story where I had been, it made my connection to the novel even stronger.

Here’s the description:

ABOUT THE BOOK:

For fans of Chanel Cleeton and Beatriz Williams, RED SKY OVER HAWAII is historical women’s fiction set in the islands during WWII. It’s the story of a woman who has to put her safety and her heart on the line when she becomes the unexpected guardian of a misfit group and decides to hide with them in a secret home in the forest on Kilauea Volcano.

The attack on Pearl Harbor changes everything for Lana Hitchcock. Arriving home on the Big Island too late to reconcile with her estranged father, all she can do is untangle the clues of his legacy, which lead to a secret property in the forest on Kilauea Volcano. America has been drawn into WWII, and amid rumors of impending invasion, the army places the islands under martial law. When they start taking away neighbors as possible sympathizers, Lana finds herself suddenly guardian to two girls, as well as accomplice to an old family friend who is Japanese, along with his son. In a heartbeat, she makes the decision to go into hiding with them all.

The hideaway house is not what Lana expected, revealing its secrets slowly, and things become even more complicated by the interest of Major Grant Bailey, a soldier from the nearby internment camp. Lana is drawn to him, too, but needs to protect her little group. With a little help from the magic on the volcano, Lana finds she can open her bruised heart to the children–and maybe to Grant.

A lush and evocative novel about doing what is right against the odds, following your heart, and what makes a family.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Sara Ackerman is the USA Today bestselling author of The Lieutenant’s Nurse and Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers. Born and raised in Hawaii, she studied journalism and earned graduate degrees in psychology and Chinese medicine. She blames Hawaii for her addiction to writing, and sees no end to its untapped stories. When she’s not writing or teaching, you’ll find her in the mountains or in the ocean. She currently lives on the Big Island with her boyfriend and a houseful of bossy animals. Find out more about Sara and her books at http://www.ackermanbooks.com and follow her on Instagram @saraackermanbooks and on FB @ackermanbooks.

While I could have had a bit more suspense and less romance, overall this was a great read. I’d love to read more of Ms. Ackerman’s novels. They are well-plotted and paced.

Thank you for making me part of the tour and for my ARC, and for letting me have a little “visit to the Islands”!

Children of the Stars by Mario Escobar

Description

From international bestselling author Mario Escobar comes a story of escape, sacrifice, and hope amid the perils of the Second World War.

August 1942. Jacob and Moses Stein, two young Jewish brothers, are staying with their aunt in Paris amid the Nazi occupation. The boys’ parents, well-known German playwrights, have left the brothers in their aunt’s care until they can find safe harbor for their family. But before the Steins can reunite, a great and terrifying roundup occurs. The French gendarmes, under Nazi order, arrest the boys and take them to the Vélodrome d’Hiver—a massive, bleak structure in Paris where thousands of France’s Jews are being forcibly detained.

Jacob and Moses know they must flee in order to survive, but they only have a set of letters sent from the South of France to guide them to their parents. Danger lurks around every corner as the boys, with nothing but each other, trek across the occupied country. Along their remarkable journey, they meet strangers and brave souls who put themselves at risk to protect the children—some of whom pay the ultimate price for helping these young refugees of war.

This inspiring novel, now available for the first time in English, demonstrates the power of family and the endurance of the human spirit—even through the darkest moments of human history.

I have enjoyed reading other novels by Mario Escobar so I was excited to get this one via Net Galley. While it tells a memorable and suspenseful story of two brothers, I must admit that sometimes I found it stretched my ability to find it believable. If I suspended my disbelief a bit, I enjoyed this story about family and brotherhood in the time of war. Lots of historical references are built in accurately, such as the Vel d’Hiv roundup (something lots of people don’t know about since the Velodrome d’Hiver is no longer standing). I will share it with my high school daughter as it’s not a disturbing read, but instead one of hope and resilience.

Thank you for my ARC, Thomas Nelson Publishers!

The Light After the War by Anita Abriel

Description

Inspired by an incredible true story of two Jewish friends who survived the Holocaust, this sweeping novel of love and friendship spans World War II from Budapest to Austria and the postwar years from Naples to Caracas, perfect for fans of The German Girl and We Were the Lucky Ones.

It is 1946 when Vera Frankel and her best friend Edith Ban arrive in Naples. Refugees from Hungary, they managed to escape from a train headed for Auschwitz and spent the rest of the war hiding on an Austrian farm. Now, the two young women must start new lives abroad. Armed with a letter of recommendation from an American officer, Vera finds work at the United States embassy where she falls in love with Captain Anton Wight.

But as Vera and Edith grapple with the aftermath of the war, so too does Anton, and when he suddenly disappears, Vera is forced to change course. Their quest for a better life takes Vera and Edith from Naples to Ellis Island to Caracas as they start careers, reunite with old friends, and rebuild their lives after terrible loss.

Moving, evocative, and compelling, this timely tale of true friendship, love, and survival will stay with you long after you turn the final page.

I should start this review by stating that I read an ARC e-galley from Atria Books through Net Galley. The final product may differ.

I need to be honest and say that I had mixed feelings on this book. I am a huge WWII genre fan and I really like true stories the best as I tend to find them inspiring and compelling. However, while this story is based on true events, I found it hard to believe. (But hey – truth can be stranger than fiction!). I struggled to connect to both of the main characters, preferring Vera over Edith as Edith seemed petulant and self-centered for most of the book. I found events hard to believe (e.g. one of the Rothschilds sees their picture in Time Magazine and sponsors them to come to the US but drops dead and can’t pick them up at Ellis Island so they go elsewhere; Vera falls in love with her boss and they truly love each other, but he leaves her as he can’t have children due to mumps as a child). I guess the thing that is hardest for me is that throughout this story, people want to help these two young women not because they have been through and survived the Holocaust and lost their families, but because they are beautiful.

I struggled a bit with the writing in parts, esp in the dialogues, but again, my copy was an ARC.

So – I did find the story really interesting of how they survived while hiding in a barn and helping with a farm, and how they went to Caracas as many Jewish refugees did and started over, and how they rebuilt their lives. And maybe all the amazing events are true — as I said truth can be stranger than fiction — there really was an Edith Ban who was a Hungarian Holocaust survivor who lived in Boston, was she the same Edith as in this book?

Overall I was left with mixed emotions. I don’t want this review to seem negative, I’m just being honest. I would have loved a bit at the end where the author says what’s true and what isn’t!

If you want a WWII read that is part romance and part survival and based on true events, then pick up a copy of The Light After the War! Let me know what you think.

Code Name Hélène by Ariel Lawhon

I love Ariel Lawhon’s works and was excited to get this one off Net Galley! What a story! This was a fascinating and fantastic, though at times heart-breaking, story of WWII Resistance. It was so incredible that I was sorry that it was not true — and then I found out that it was based on true events and a true person, which made it all the more fantastic!

If you enjoy WWII stories with intrigue, action, suspense, and love, this is one for you!


Thank you, Doubleday Books, for my ARC!

Description

“Ariel Lawhon delivers in Code Name Hélène. This fully animated portrait of Nancy Wake… will fascinate readers of World War II history and thrill fans of fierce, brash, independent women, alike. A stark exploration of the remarkable difference one person, willing to rise in the face of fear, can make.”
-LISA WINGATE, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Before We Were Yours

BASED ON THE THRILLING REAL-LIFE STORY OF SOCIALITE SPY NANCY WAKE, comes the newest feat of historical fiction from the New York Times bestselling author of I Was Anastasia, featuring the astonishing woman who killed a Nazi with her bare hands and went on to become one of the most decorated women in WWII.

Told in interweaving timelines organized around the four code names Nancy used during the war, Code Name Hélène is a spellbinding and moving story of enduring love, remarkable sacrifice and unfaltering resolve that chronicles the true exploits of a woman who deserves to be a household name.
It is 1936 and Nancy Wake is an intrepid Australian expat living in Paris who has bluffed her way into a reporting job for Hearst newspaper when she meets the wealthy French industrialist Henri Fiocca. No sooner does Henri sweep Nancy off her feet and convince her to become Mrs. Fiocca than the Germans invade France and she takes yet another name: a code name.
As LUCIENNE CARLIER Nancy smuggles people and documents across the border and earns a new nickname from the Gestapo for her remarkable ability to evade capture: THE WHITE MOUSE. With a five million franc bounty on her head, Nancy is forced to escape France and leave Henri behind. When she enters training with the Special Operations Executives in Britain, she is told to use the name HÉLÈNE with her comrades. And finally, with mission in hand, Nancy is airdropped back into France as the deadly MADAM ANDRÉE, where she claims her place as one of the most powerful leaders in the French Resistance, known for her ferocious wit, her signature red lipstick, and her ability to summon weapons straight from the Allied Forces. But no one can protect Nancy if the enemy finds out these four women are one and the same, and the closer to liberation France gets, the more exposed she–and the people she loves–will become.

The King’s Justice by Susan Elia MacNeal

Maggie Hope is back! And I couldn’t be more thrilled! I love this series and I give kudos to Ms. MacNeal as she can make each installment in this series different and interesting and compelling.

If you like WWII stories with strong, smart women, then the Maggie Hope series is for you!

Description

Can a stolen violin lead secret agent and spy Maggie Hope to a new serial killer terrorizing London? Find out as the acclaimed World War II mystery series from New York Times bestselling author Susan Elia MacNeal continues.

Maggie Hope started out as Winston Churchill’s secretary, but now she’s a secret agent—and the only one who can figure out how the missing instrument ties into the murders.

London, December 1942. As the Russian army repels German forces from Stalingrad, Maggie Hope takes a much-needed break from spying to defuse bombs in London. But Maggie herself is an explosion waiting to happen. Traumatized by her past, she finds herself living dangerously—taking huge risks, smoking, drinking, and speeding through the city streets on a motorbike. The last thing she wants is to get entangled in another crime.

But when she’s called upon to look into the theft of a Stradivarius, one of the finest violins ever made, Maggie can’t resist. Meanwhile, there’s a serial killer on the loose in London, targeting conscientious objectors. Little does she know that investigating this dangerous predator will pit her against a new evil—and old enemies. Only Maggie can uncover the connection between the robbery, the murders, and a link to her past.

Thank you for my ARC!

The Forgotten Girls by Lizzie Page

Description

Elaine was typing out letters from POWs and reminding herself that she would not cry. Poor Sam in Burma doubted whether he would ever see his children again. ‘Tell them they mean the world to me.’ Come on, Sam. Elaine wanted to reach out into the letter, hold his hand. Hang in there. If only he knew that she was half a world away, reading, listening…

London, 1943. German bombs rain down on London, but Elaine Parker knows her job transcribing letters from far-away prisoners of war is more important than her own safety. As she pores over each tearful letter from a soldier to his family far away, she’s not only making sure the notes reach their destinations, but also looking for secret messages hidden between the lines to help the allies win the war.

At home, Elaine’s life isn’t so simple. What the other clerical girls don’t know is that Elaine’s family isn’t respectable, and with her parents long dead, it’s up to Elaine to make ends meet. But with one brother increasingly in trouble with the law, and the other suffering a violent breakdown, it doesn’t leave Elaine much time to consider her own future hopes and dreams. 

And then Elaine meets dark-haired and passionate Bobby – a wartime photographer on the dangerous front line – and her world shifts. The uncertainties of war feel more personal than ever. Will Elaine be forced to choose between her difficult family and her growing passion for Bobby? And how do you let yourself love someone with your whole heart when each moment could be their last? 

A heartbreaking World War Two novel – emotional and unforgettable. Perfect for fans of Orphan TrainSold on a Monday and Before We Were Yours.

I enjoyed this story of WWII, though it wasn’t what I was expecting. I thought that since the description highlighted the codes in POW letters that that would be a major point in the plot, but this was really a love story. Elaine is a working class young woman who falls in love with a famous war photographer, Robert Capa. This is the story of their relationship. It was an interesting read, but it was even more interesting after I finished it and discovered that these were all real people. I went online and found pictures of Robert and Elaine and some of the photos that are written about in the story. Their story is heart-breaking and memorable, and I highly recommend it if you like this genre.

Thank you for my ARC!

Cilka’s Journey by Heather Morris

I really enjoyed The Tattooist of Auschwitz (though I am aware of all the criticism it received for being unbelievable), and I was excited to find Ms. Morris’ next novel, Cilka’s Journey on Net Galley. Cilka is a character from Tatooist and the story tells what happens to her after the war.

First I must say that I struggled with the first third of this book. I found it so violent and disturbing that I feared I might not be able to continue reading as I was having nightmares, but I figured that this was someone’s story and they didn’t have the option to “stop reading” so I should stick with it. Luckily for me, things became less graphic and I got really into the plot and characters. Cilka was an amazingly strong young woman, but I was left with such a sense of sorrow – as I often am when I read stories of the Holocaust – that her young life was upended and forever changed by the atrocities of war. I also had no idea that those who “collaborated” with the Nazis in the camps (though some had no choice) by being in charge of their bunks, being forced to have sex with guards, etc. were sent to labor camps after the war.

Recommended to those who enjoyed the first story (though this is a stand alone) and stories of the Holocaust.

Here’s the overview:

Description

From the author of the multi-million copy bestseller The Tattooist of Auschwitz comes a new novel based on a riveting true story of love and resilience.

Her beauty saved her — and condemned her.

Cilka is just sixteen years old when she is taken to Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp in 1942, where the commandant immediately notices how beautiful she is. Forcibly separated from the other women prisoners, Cilka learns quickly that power, even unwillingly taken, equals survival.

When the war is over and the camp is liberated, freedom is not granted to Cilka: She is charged as a collaborator for sleeping with the enemy and sent to a Siberian prison camp. But did she really have a choice? And where do the lines of morality lie for Cilka, who was send to Auschwitz when she was still a child?

In Siberia, Cilka faces challenges both new and horribly familiar, including the unwanted attention of the guards. But when she meets a kind female doctor, Cilka is taken under her wing and begins to tend to the ill in the camp, struggling to care for them under brutal conditions.

Confronting death and terror daily, Cilka discovers a strength she never knew she had. And when she begins to tentatively form bonds and relationships in this harsh, new reality, Cilka finds that despite everything that has happened to her, there is room in her heart for love.

From child to woman, from woman to healer, Cilka’s journey illuminates the resilience of the human spirit—and the will we have to survive.